Out 30 June, 120 minutes, CD/Download, Spiteful Puppet
Nothing’s ever forgotten…
As some of you might know, I’m more than a little acquainted with the legend of the famous outlaw Robin Hood – and, for my money, the definitive retelling of the story has always been Robin of Sherwood. It caught me at just the right age back in the ’80s, and was a massive influence on my own post-apocalyptic version years later – something I’m very fortunate enough to have been able to tell Richard ‘Kip’ Carpenter before his passing. So, you can imagine my delight when I heard that a two-part coda he’d written when trying to get the TV show back on the air was now being made as an audio drama, featuring most of the original cast of the show. This is the product of that labour of love, a charity project which hit its Kickstarter goal in just one day thanks to its many fans and supporters.
The story picks up not long after the TV series ended, with Marion (Judi Trott) thankfully back in the fold after that devastating finale where she went off to become a nun. And it’s a good job the band is all back together, because there’s a new group of troublemakers to contend with called The Knights of the Apocalypse – an order who worship only power and money. Plagued by bad dreams, Robin (Jason Connery) is summoned by Herne (Daniel Abineri) and shown a vision of the future involving both the Knights and his father, the Earl of Huntingdon.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff (Nickolas Grace, slipping into the role as if he had never left it) is facing his own problems – not least a wayward Gisburne (Freddie Fox taking over from the much missed Robert Addie). Turns out, though, the Knights are just as much of a thorn in his side as they’re becoming for Robin – and so begins a cracking story full of twists, thrills, tension and magnificent banter from the Merry Men (with exchanges between Ray Winstone’s Will Scarlet, Clive Mantle’s Little John and Phil Rose’s Tuck an absolute joy). Even fan favourite Nasir (Mark Ryan) gets lines! It all leads up to a climactic confrontation with the mad leader of the Knights (played by none other than Buffy’s Anthony Head). But who will win, and what will be lost in the process? You’re just going to have to listen to find out.
If I had a reservation at all going into this one, it was the medium. Robin of Sherwood was such a visual show – the swashbuckling fights and daring do a major part of its success – that I wondered whether it would work as an audio drama. I needn’t have worried… Such is the quality of the production, and the acting, that actually quite the reverse is true – and you feel like you’re in there with Robin and the gang, closer to the action than ever before. Although, I have to say, part of me was also lamenting the TV version of it that never was – or maybe a movie version, as this would have taken quite a considerable budget to pull off.
But as a massive fan of the show and its mythology, I can’t really fault this – it delivered on every level; even the iconic Clannad theme returns and there’s a mysterious cameo from former Hood Michael Praed. More than that, though, it’s enough of a standalone that you can dip in, whether you’re familiar with the source material or not. And in spite of the fact it ends in quite a natural place, giving us that sense of closure we’ve been longing for all this time, I for one wouldn’t mind some more adventures from the gang. The only limit is our imagination… Very highly recommended indeed!
Verdict: The powers of light and dark are with you… 10/10